Gear

Yes, I'm a gear GeEk... Read in amazement about what strings I use, and what flavour my delay pedal is...
This page is probably only of interest to a certain type of musician, so feel free to not bother.

Jump to: Basses - Amps - Effects - Strings - Other Stuff

Basses

1994 Ernie Ball Musicman StingRay

The Boy

Mods - Hipshot Bass Xtender, Bartolini pickup, Ernie Ball Straplocks

Designed by Leo Fender in 1976, I wanted one of these since I first picked up a Hohner Arbor and discovered low frequencies. I just love the way it looks - distinctive round scratchplate, smiley eq plate, 3+1 tuners on that cute little headstock, a single mighty humbucking pickup and a bridge that could have been designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel (I don't know much about Music Man bridge history, but I'm guessing it's the 'Flea' bridge, which was used from 92 -94)
It's been called a precision on steroids (by me). I replaced the pickup when I had more money than sense- the original was good, but I fancied a change & the Bartolini sounds as good as it looks. I also added a Hipshot Bass Xtender for low D at the flick of a switch - the best invention since the electric Bass! The three band EQ is brilliant - the treble gives nice clear highs, the mid control takes a bit of getting used to but it gives you a nice 'singing' tone if you go easy and some top filthy-almost-distorted sounds if you dig in a bit more and the Bass control gives you what can only be described as 'Big Bottom'. The Maple neck plays beautifully, sounds gorgeous, matches the body (almost) and took fourteen years of heavy use before needing a refret (which was done beautifully by Ged Green). I like a maple neck. I've hammered this Bass for years and it still plays like a dream, it's built to last forever (the odd refret aside), it's still years ahead of it's time and even after a few tumbles, he stil looks as good as the day I bought him. It, I mean it. As for bad points - well... when I bought it, it wasn't shielded (which if you ask me is a bit pants for a Bass of this pedigree) so it buzzed like mad until I got a chap called Trevor Walker to quiet the beast, and ... if I'm nitpicking... through body stringing would be nice. Maybe for his thirtieth.

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2008 Ernie Ball Musicman Sterling

It's a crap picture but it'll have to do...

Mods - Hipshot Bass Xtender, Ernie Ball Straplocks

For years, the StingRay was the only Bass I needed, but just when I'd worn his frets out, I got an offer I couldn't refuse. The lovely people at Ernie Ball wanted my old domain name ernieball.co.uk but because I was so attached to it, they offered me a lovely new Bass to soften the blow... I couldn't resist the sound of a Cherryburst Sterling with a Maple neck, so I got this fine specimen. I even got to choose my scratchplate colour! Thanks Beth!! Named after Ernie Ball's son (yes, really) the Sterling is a bit smaller than the StingRay, a bit lighter (a bit more... feminine?!) with a not-quite-so- round scratchplate, surface mounted controls, coil-tapping switch and a slightly slimmer neck (I kept slipping off the edge for about six months) with an extra fret.
She's a fantastic Bass, beautiful to play, gorgeous looking (look at the flame on that...) like I say, a more feminine StingRay. The Sterling has a different pickup to the StingRay (ceramic vs alnico) which has maybe a bit more punch than thump, but I've replaced my StingRay pickup, so what would I know?! I had to put a hipshot on her because she wouldn't be mine without one!
This was my main Bass for years. It is BRILLIANT.
Bad points? None.

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"Mo"

Why is she called Mo....?

Mods - Fishman BP-100 piezo pickup

The first thing you should know about Mo is that I paid two hundred and sixty one pounds for her. I like eBay. Even with the cost of a return train fare to Glasgow to collect her (ever taken a Double Bass on a train? It's an ice breaker I can tell you) and fifty quid for a setup & service, I still paid less than £350. A bargain, I'm sure you'll agree. Apart from that, I know nothing about her. No-one I've asked seems to have any idea how old she is or where she might have been made. A lovely chap called Roger who's done some work on her suggested 1940s or 50s (he could tell from the varnish, apparently) but I'll never know. It all adds to the mystique, I s'pose. She's in pretty good nick and has got a BIG woody tone, no less than you expect when you're playing a wardrobe. The pickup is another ebay find - it came without the fittings so instead of paying for them, I improvised - two bulldog clips (free), half a plastic cork (free with a bottle of Kumala sauvignon blanc) and a piece of felt (25p) and Bob's your uncle. It sounds great, especially through the Fishman Preamp which has the BEST invention ever - a switch that makes feedback go away! It took me a long time to get my head round Double Bass - I assumed it was like fretless but upright. How wrong I was. Oh, the pain.... I was ready to give up on it when Rae (RRH/Coraline) insisted I play 'B-line' by Lamb and 'Seduced' by Mary Coughlan at her MA recital, so I persevered - and I'm so glad I did. Cheers pickle! I mainly play Mo whenever an acoustic set is needed - usually for GeEkgiRL but she has also appeared with Physical Jerks, Coraline, The Bee's Niece and lots of dubious jazz bands. The downside? Well, apart from the jazz.... she's a pain in the arse to move around, a pain in the arms to play and a pain in the ankle when you turn round on stage and bang into her.

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2004 (?) Olympia OB3CE Acoustic Bass

mmmmm........

Mods - Schaller straploks, Hipshot Bass Xtender

I'd settled on an applause (ovations budget rage) for my acoustic which was ok soundwise, but it had a plastic bowl back which is almost impossible to play standing up. I'd been keeping my eyes open for a replacement for a year or so when I stumbled across one of these in Johnny Roadhouse. The first thing that struck me was the volume - it's LOUD. I couldn't believe I'd found an acoustic that had the authority of a 'proper' Bass. I compared it to a couple of others that were in the shop, and that made my mind up - they sounded and played like toy ukeleles compared to this baby! I had to have it, but I couldn't afford the £400 asking price, so I headed to my local eBay. A few emails and a couple of weeks later I took delivery of one from the USA for the meagre sum of £250. I really like eBay. It knocks the spots off every other acoustic Bass I've ever played (with the possible exceptions of a Martin B1 (£1700) and a Fylde King John (about two grand)) in terms of sound, playability and volume - and it's beautiful to boot! The completely uncluttered satin finish is complemented by the offset 'teardrop' soundhole - Mmmmm. The first time I gigged it was with GeEkgiRL - completely unplugged, no amp, no PA, no nothing and loads of people remarked on how loud it was. 'nuff said!
Olympia is the budget range from Tacoma - needless to say I'm hankering after a Tacoma....
Bad points? Well..... it's a shade bigger than I'd like (it's about the size of a transit van) which can make it a bit uncomfy to play at first but that's where the volume comes from I s'pose. Oh, and it came without strap buttons. Apart from that, Banzai!

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Amps

Markbass Mini CMD 121 stack

I was a big fan of a BIG Ashdown for years, but when my rig got too big for my boots, I decided it was time for a change. I'd already decided on a Markbass Mini CMD 121P combo (the top half) after using them a few times (studio session with a jazz trio and a punk gig in a pub amongst others) and being well impressed.
The first thing that hits you is the volume. You won't believe it's a single 12 inch speaker - Neodynium something or other and geranium diode... erm... physics technology or something, apparently. It sounds pretty good too!
I like an amp that doesn't colour your sound unless you tell it to, and this fits the bill perfectly; everything you play is reproduced with crystal clarity - even the fret buzz and finger noise!
If you want a bit of tone shaping, the Mark has it in spades. The VLE (Vintage Loudspeaker Emulator) gives you as much old-skool 'Thump' as you can handle and the VPF (Variable Preshape Filter) dials in the 'smiley face' EQ beloved by Bass players, and that's before you've even touched the 4 band EQ...
Sounds brilliant with the upright, too.
All this from a box you can carry with one hand. On the Sodding Metrolink if you have to.

As usual, to get the full power out of the amp you need an extension cab, and what could be better than a perfectly matching NY121?

Bad points - The top-mounted control panel is asking to have beer spilled on it, and the DI out doesn't have a level control.

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Peavey Minx 110

Peavey Minx

I originally bought this as a practice amp so I could get Bass noises at home but it's turned out to be capable of loads more. Rated at a meagre 35 Watts with a single 10 inch speaker, it packs a punch that belies it's diminutive dimensions. It's also got a nice "flat" response which really allows the voice of the Bass to come through. It can cope with the full weight of a StingRay through my array of distortion pedals (even at neighbour-friendly volume) and it handles acoustic & Double Bass well enough to function as an on stage monitor for acoustic gigs, which is mainly what I used it for until the Markbass came along.
I don't suppose it'd fill the albert hall unaided but considering it's a 35W bedroom amp, it's been behind me on stage more times than you'd expect.
Bad points? None!

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Effects

Call them stompboxes, pedals or talent boosters, I like effects. I prefer individual stompboxes to multi-fx because they sound better, they're easier to upgrade, you can build your collection up over time, and you can set them up however you want. That said, they weigh a ton and you need a big flightcase to carry them round in which also weighs a ton.
Some people are surprised when it's the Bass player who turns up with so many pedals, but I've (mostly) been lucky enough to be in bands with people who appreciate that Bass doesn't have to just go dum-de-dum. I really like having a massive range of weird and wonderful sounds at my feet, and anyway why should guitarists have all the fun?!
This is my pedalboard-

Yes, the leads are colour coded...

The board was custom made for me by ex Red Right Hand drummer Tim (who now drums for Polytechnic). It's sturdy as yer hat and covered in industrial strength velcro, so the pedals (and the shelf) can be stuck wherever you want them. It's self contained, so you just take the lid off, plug in to the mains, in from the Bass, out to the amp and you're ready to go.
The pedals are all powered by a Cioks Big John power supply (which is stashed under the shelf along with the power supply for the lights). Yeah, it's a bit pimpy, but it look great on a dark stage, and I'm probably being post-ironic or something...
Some people think it's a bit excessive "for a Bass player" - I think they can Fuck right off.

Boss

I don't know anyone who's got a bad word to say about Boss pedals - well designed, sturdily made, good value for money and excellent sound quality. OK, they're not exactly boutique, but they're reliable unpretentious workhorses.

TU-2 tuner - the best pedal tuner I could find. (Apart from a Peterson and I can't afford one...) Accurate tuning, massive range (it'll tune anything from a mandolin to a Chapman Stick and more besides), useful chromatic mode for weird tunings and lots of lovely lights.

LS-2 Line Selector - Ever tried jumping on three pedals at once? You need a line selector. This thing is so useful, it almost needs a page of it's own (but I'm not that sad). I mainly use it to switch between two effects loops but you can use it for so much more - run one guitar through different amps, run upright & acoustic through one amp, use it as a clean boost, a true (ish) bypass switch, it's even a 2 channel mixer.

ODB-3 Bass Overdrive - A two band EQ coupled with gain and distortion levels make this pedal capable of everything from full on earth-shattering distortion to subtle slightly overdriven crunch. You can even turn the distortion to zero and use it as a Bass (or treble) booster. I tend to go for the full on earth-shattering distortion

SYB-3 Bass Synth* - There's no two ways about it - this is a crazy pedal. 11 different modes of madness open up a world of synth sounds, including square waves, sawtooth waves, autowahs, added distortion, sub-octave rumbles, frequency oscillators... I wish I'd paid attention in Music Tech lectures.
It doesn't come out much, but when it does, you'll notice.

DD-3 Digital Delay - OK, so it doesn't have on-the-fly tap tempo or stereo panning and the delay time "only" goes up to 800 ms, but who cares?! If I'd wanted all that malarkey, I'd have bought a looper. It does all I want a delay to do, anything from 'doubling' your sound to building up a one man Bass orchestra!

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EBS

Designed for Bass players and made in Sweden, EBS pedals are the business.

Octabass* - This thing is evil. It adds a PHAT gutbucket tone an octave below whatever you play (down to about 'C', then it starts acting a bit odd). It's good for thickening your sound when you go up the dusty end of the fretboard, or getting that stomach-churning, bowel-shaking 'sub Bass' sound that you can't so much hear as feel.

Unichorus* - Analog warmth in a stompbox?! It can be done! This is three pedals in one - choose between chorus, flanger or pitch modulation. They all have their own sound, the flanger is a bit harsh, almost metallic, the chorus is sweet and subtle, and the pitch mod is like chorus, but a bit... bigger. Simple to use, just rate & depth controls. Sounded great on my old fretless (covered for my poor intonation!), for general chorus-ey niceness, and putting flanger on a little muff can only be a good thing.

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Electro Harmonix

Little Big Muff π - Not only is it smaller and better designed than it's more macho cousin, it (apparently) "presents the classic, true-to-heritage, 1970 tone that falls somewhere between the current U.S. Big Muff and the Russian Big Muff", or in english, it's tons more Bassy than the original - Thick, Phat fuzz that will thump your ribcage from fifty yards.
It's more of a one-trick pony than the Boss and Sansamp distortions, but it's a great trick!

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Jim Dunlop

105q Cry Baby Bass Wah - Yes, it's a Wah wah for Bass. Why not?! It has a 'q' control so you can adjust the width of the wah, it kicks in as soon as you step on it, and stops as soon as you get off. It's a very particular sound, so it doesn't see as much use as the others, but when you want to get funky there's none better.

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Ernie Ball

Volume pedal junior - There's plenty of volume pedals on the market, but none of them are built like the EB. Made of aluminum extrusion and about the size of a caravan, it's also useful for throwing at your drummer when he cocks up. Joke!

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Aphex

Bass Xciter - 1402 Bass Xciter with Big Bottom and Aural Exciter to give it it's full title. This is a great sounding pedal - It's a bit hard to describe what it does... you have to hear it really. According to the blurb, it has a "patented Transient Discriminate Harmonics Generator" to "Convincigly recreate minute harmonic details of sound" What that means to you and me is that it makes your Bass sound.... not louder, just... "Bigger". It also sounds a bit rude, which is always a bonus. (See also Little Big Muff, flanger)
Sadly, the design and build of the thing leave a lot to be desired - expect lots of repair bills.

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Tech 21 NYC

Sansamp Bass driver DI programmable - This is one of my favourite pedals, mainly because it's such an all-rounder - It's a preamp, a DI box and a cracking distortion pedal. I mainly use it as a preamp at the front of my signal chain to 'warm up' my sound, but it's also great at the end of your chain as a DI box. It's supposed to emulate vintage valve amp sounds, and to be fair, it does a pretty good job - it's definitely more suited to Rocky stuff. Live engineers are sometimes a bit sniffy about me using my own DI box but they soon change their tune when they hear it! The programmable bit means you can call up three different sounds at the stomp of a boot.
Even if I can't bring my whole board to a gig/jam/rehearsal, I always bring the Sansamp.

Obviously, I only use this lot for my electric setup - If I'm doing an acoustic gig, I just bring the tuner, the volume pedal (my Double Bass has a pickup but no volume control), the line selector (to switch between upright & acoustic Bass) and a Fishman Pro EQ Platinum Bass which is a great little tool - acoustic preamp & DI box designed for Bass with 5 band EQ and (best of all) a switch that makes feedback go away. Genius.

* The link is to a newer model


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Strings

On my StingRay and Sterling I use Ernie Ball Super Slinkys 45-100s.

On my acoustic, I'm currently using Elixirs, which seem pretty nice. I also like Elites Phosphor Bronze 40-100s.

Mo wears Thomastik-Infeld Spirocore mediums.

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Other Stuff

The funky little Detuners on my StingRay, Sterling and acoustic are Hipshot Bass Xtenders, which drop your bottom string to a 'D'
Apparently, it'll go as low as a 'C' but I'm not a metalhead.
It's a bit more complex on an upright. My R&D boys are working on it.
I use a Mono Betty strap and Ernie Ball Straplocks.

I use two Beyer Dynamic leads that they don't make anymore, which is a shame because they still work after fifteen years heavy use.

I also use a lot of George L's patch leads.

My stand is a Bespeco Compac 20 which is both brilliant and discontinued.
Hercules stands are pretty good too.

I love my Fishman Pro EQ Platinum Bass which is a great little tool - acoustic preamp & DI box designed for Bass with 5 band EQ and (best of all) a switch that makes feedback go away. Genius. Perfect. Discontinued. Grr

My Electrics travel in Hiscox liteflite cases unless I'm on my bike when I use a Protec Contego gigbag.

Mo travels in a gigbag called Tim Hendson which is a fantastic bit of kit.
I think it's made by Gedo music, who also sell a dead nice Sousaphon [sic] gigbag.

I finally found a decent case that fits my acoustic - it's made by Protection Racket and it's a mobile fortress.

If I'm using a plectrum, it's a Jim Dunlop Tortex Triangle 1.14mm.

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I haven't been paid or endorsed to say any of this - if I recommend something, it's because I think it's brilliant.

I did warn you this page would be dull.